Beck-Ola is the second album by Jeff Beck, released in 1969 in the United Kingdom on Columbia Records and in the United States on Epic Records. It peaked at No. 15 on the Billboard 200, and at No. 39 on the British album chart. The album’s title puns on the name of the Rock-Ola jukebox company.
After the release of their previous album Truth, by the end of 1968 drummer Micky Waller was replaced by Tony Newman, as Jeff Beck wanted to take the music in a heavier direction and he viewed Waller as more of a finesse drummer in the style of Motown. Pianist Nicky Hopkins, who had also played on Truth, was asked to join the band full-time for their work in the studio.
Recording sessions for the album took place over six days in April 1969 – the 3rd, 6th, 8th, 10th, 11th and 19th. Two covers of Elvis Presley tunes were chosen, “All Shook Up” and “Jailhouse Rock”, as well as “Girl From Mill Valley”, an instrumental by and prominently featuring Hopkins. The remaining four tracks consist of band originals, with the instrumental “Rice Pudding” ending the album with a hard edit mid-song. The cover features a reproduction of Belgian surrealist artist René Magritte’s The Listening Room. On the back cover to the original vinyl issue, beside “Beck-Ola” is written the tag “Cosa Nostra”, Italian for “Our Thing”.
Following the sessions for this album, the Jeff Beck Group toured the United States. They were scheduled to play Woodstock and are listed on posters promoting the festival, but by then internal friction had reached the breaking point and both Ronnie Wood and Rod Stewart were out of the band. Stewart and Wood would join the Faces in 1969, while Hopkins played Woodstock with Jefferson Airplane, joined Quicksilver Messenger Service, and would tour with The Rolling Stones in 1971, 1972 and 1973. Beck himself would be out of commission by December due to an automobile accident.
In a contemporary review for The Village Voice, music critic Robert Christgau was unimpressed by the album and facetiously remarked that Stewart and Beck had encouraged Hopkins’ overblown playing. At the time, Beck commented on the album cover the impossibility of coming up with anything original, and that Beck-Ola indeed was not. Although a short album at half an hour, along with its predecessor it is regarded as a seminal work of heavy metal due to its use of blues toward a hard rock approach and the squaring off of Beck’s guitar against Stewart’s vocals, and claims that it was duplicated the same year by Beck’s confederate Jimmy Page with his singer Robert Plant in Led Zeppelin, although in actual fact Zeppelin had been displaying such style since the summer of 1968.
On 10 October 2006, Legacy Recordings remastered and reissued the album for compact disc with four bonus tracks, all of which had been previously unreleased. Included were two early takes of the Presley covers, one done at Abbey Road Studios in January, a jam on “Sweet Little Angel” by B.B. King done the previous November with the Waller edition of the band, and a song intended as a single by producer Mickie Most but never issued. (by wikpedia)
When it was originally released in June 1969, Beck-Ola, the Jeff Beck Group’s second album, featured a famous sleeve note on its back cover: “Today, with all the hard competition in the music business, it’s almost impossible to come up with anything totally original. So we haven’t. However, this LP was made with the accent on heavy music. So sit back and listen and try and decide if you can find a small place in your heads for it.” Beck was reacting to the success of peers and competitors like Cream and Led Zeppelin here, bands that had been all over the charts with a hard rock sound soon to be dubbed heavy metal, and indeed, his sound employs much the same brand of “heavy music” as theirs, with deliberate rhythms anchoring the beat, over which the guitar solos fiercely and the lead singer emotes. But he was also preparing listeners for the weakness of the material on an album that sounds somewhat thrown together. Two songs are rehauls of Elvis Presley standards (“All Shook Up” and “Jailhouse Rock”) and one is an instrumental interlude contributed by pianist Nicky Hopkins, promoted from sideman to group member, with the rest being band-written songs that basically serve as platforms for Beck’s improvisations.
But that doesn’t detract from the album’s overall quality, due both to the guitar work and the distinctive vocals of Rod Stewart, and Beck-Ola easily could have been the album to establish the Jeff Beck Group as the equal of the other heavy bands of the day. Unfortunately, a series of misfortunes occurred. Beck canceled out of a scheduled appearance at Woodstock; he was in a car accident that sidelined him for over a year, and Stewart and bass player Ron Wood decamped to join Faces, breaking up the group. Nevertheless, Beck-Ola stands as a prime example of late-’60s British blues-rock and one of Beck’s best records. (by William Ruhlmann)
Jeff Beck (guitar, background vocals on “Throw Down a Line”
Nicky Hopkins (keyboards)
Tony Newman (drums)
Rod Stewart (vocals)
Ronnie Wood (bass)
Micky Waller (drums on 08.)
01. All Shook Up (Blackwell/Presley) 4.50
02. Spanish Boots (Wood/Beck/Stewart) 3.34
03. Girl From Mill Valley (Hopkins) 3.45
04. Jailhouse Rock (Leiber/Stoller) 3.14
05. Plynth (Water Down The Drain) (Hopkins/Wood/Stewart) 3.05
06. The Hangman’s Knee (Newman/Beck/Hopkins/Stewart/Wood) 4.47
07. Rice Pudding (Hopkins/Wood/Beck/Newman) 7.22
08. Sweet Little Angel (King/Taub) 7.57
09. Throw Down A Line (Marvin) 2.54
10. All Shook Up (early version) (Blackwell/Presley) 3.18
11. Jailhouse Rock (early version) (Leiber/Stoller) 3.11